Finding a great horse to carry it can take a lifetime.
Prince Khalid Abdullah, of the House of Saud, and Bobby Frankel, the boy from Brooklyn, were an odd couple at first glance. But the owner and trainer forged a strong relationship until Frankel died from leukaemia in 2009.
The prince wanted to name a horse after Frankel but both he and his racing manager, Teddy Grimthorpe, knew the chances of hitching the name to the right horse would be no easy feat given that none of their two-year-olds had really got into fast work, much less racing. But one had been giving the right signs.
"He was our nicest-looking yearling, with a high-class pedigree and he fitted the credentials," Grimthorpe recalled. "But it's not always those who find their way to the winner's enclosure."
Thus Frankel was named and a legend was born with the colt having an unbeaten career of 13 races that is likely to end when he runs in the Group One Qipco Champ- ion Stakes at Ascot on Saturday.
Turn the clock back 15 months and Grimthorpe is standing on Newmarket Heath with Sir Henry Cecil, Frankel's trainer, one July morning. The horse was still a couple of weeks away from his first run and Tom Queally, Cecil's stable jockey, had arrived to ride work. It was a moment that still has Grimthorpe gasping in disbelief.
"He did a piece on the Limekilns and I remember watching it and it was the most extraordinary thing," Grimthorpe said. "He went miles clear on the bridle, Tom Queally was trying to pull him up, and no-one said a word. Henry said nothing, Tom was white faced and I was still collecting my jaw off the ground. We just knew, if things went right, he could be anything."
What Frankel has become is the best horse on the planet, for the last 50 years or of all time, take your pick. But he announced himself on that level with his stunning victory in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket last season.
"The original idea was for Frankel to sit behind the pacemaker, Rerouted, and then go on," Grimthorpe said. "But, when they were drawn one and 13, that wasn't practical and so the idea was to let the pacemaker go on and let Frankel do his own thing."
At least half the jockeys in the race thought it was Rerouted who had gone blasting off at a suicidal pace, but it was, in fact, Frankel who had delivered the killer blow after just three furlongs.
"To see him 14 lengths clear at halfway in the 2000 Guineas – I'd be a liar if I said I'd have predicted that," Grimthorpe said. "The beauty of Frankel is that he's got this extraordinary stride, so his cruising speed is most horses' flat-out gallop."
The best thoroughbreds in Europe have been left flat out as Frankel has cruised imperiously through three seasons of unbroken success. The Champion Stakes is expected to be Frankel's swansong before he is retired to stud but it may be that the best has been saved until last. Cirrus Des Aigles, the crack French horse who is rated the second-best in the world, is coming over and Nathaniel, the horse who came closest to beating Frankel when they met in a Newmarket maiden three years ago, might also make the line-up for a re-match worth the billing.
But why stop now? Grimthorpe said it was not purely the financial implications – Frankel's valuation starts somewhere north of £100 million – but the feeling that the owner wants to do right by the horse rather than squeezing the lemon to the point where all that will be left is a sour taste.
"We have had three incredible years – in which he has been a champion in each one – and I've always said that the best time to leave a party is when you least want to go," Grimthorpe said. "It's easy to forget with Frankel just how difficult it is to bring a horse 100% well to the races 13 times so far. Every race just takes that little bit more out and he's done everything we could have wanted – it's not as if he's shirked any issues. People say to me this will be just a cakewalk, but it couldn't be a better field.
"He's dominated our lives to such an extraordinary extent, so it won't be the same when he's retired. We'll just have to hope that he can be a good stallion."
And that one of his sons may yet rise to such heights. But they will have one hell of a name to live up to.
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